Thankful Thursday (Girl Meets Life September Blogging Challenge)

I came across Girl Meets Life’s September Blogging Challenge, and wanted to hop on board.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday. (You can view the entire blogging challenge here.)

I could go on and on about how much my pug has touched my life. She’s taught me so many lessons, especially about knowing when to rest. She calms me and continually surprises me with her strength. She suffers with a back disease that is a form of slow paralysis, and yet she plays like she’s still a puppy.

I’m so thankful to have this little creature in my life.

Thankful Thursday

Tara Stiles’ “Make Your Own Rules Diet” is a Journey You’ll Want to Take

tara_stilesbook

First, I just want to say how honored and excited I am to be able to share the following book review for Tara Stiles’ “Make Your Own Rules Diet.” I was shocked and surprised when I got chosen to write a review on my blog. I hope you all enjoy, and a huge thank-you to Tara!

When I first saw a shirt with “Make Your Own Rules” on it, it changed the way I looked at myself. It was when I first discovered Tara through the television show with Tia Mowry, where Tia decides she wants to make a yoga video with Tara. I bought both DVDs. Then I found Tara’s YouTube channel, and instantly connected with the way she taught yoga. She made it accessible. She encouraged me to “make my own rules.” No one is the same–and we shouldn’t be forced to comply with rules that just aren’t fit for us. The way Tara guides you through yoga–encouraging you to do what feels good, to connect with your breath, and to forget forcing yourself into poses– made me change the way I looked at yoga, fitness, and even cooking. It didn’t surprise me when she announced that she was releasing a book about food– her “Tara Eats” videos and Tumblr blog recipes were just as easy and accessible as the yoga she’d guide me through on Youtube.

If you haven’t heard of Tara Stiles, the one thing you’ll immediately notice is that she’s all about ease, and it’s no surprise that this is the theme for “Make Your Own Rules Diet.” Tara’s not going to force you into anything. As she says in the book, her mission is for her and us to “go on a space-making journey together. We’ll cast aside the rules that other people have laid out; you’ll learn how to tap into your intuition to create rules that work for you. And because this is all about you, you’re in charge. I’ll simply be your guide.”

I love the way the book is laid out, with Tara separating “Make Your Own Rules Diet” into three parts that begins, not surprisingly, on the yoga mat, winds its way through meditation, and finally, makes its way into the kitchen.

From downward dogs and easy breathing to your cupboards and kitchen counter, you certainly don’t want to miss this journey that Tara has mapped out. Throughout “Make Your Own Rules Diet,” Tara proves over and over again how simple yoga, meditation, and cooking healthily can be.

Simple cooking is already great cooking to me, and Tara’s recipes are so delicious and vibrant in color that you’ll want to make them again and again. One example is “The Swamp,” a brilliantly green smoothie that is sure to leave you glowing, full of energy, and ready to take on the morning. If you find yourself often reaching for a not-so-great afternoon snack, then whip up a batch of her Granola, with an added twist that I adore: sour cherries. They add a perfect sour punch that’s sure to get you out of any 3 p.m. slumps or hangry (hungry+angry) attacks.

And perfect for the upcoming fall season in which “Make Your Own Rules Diet” is being released, the Roasted Acorn Squash Soup is sure to warm you up during the colder evenings and shorter days. I’ve fallen in love with soup over the years, so I cannot wait to make this one.

The “Make Your Own Rules Diet” journey will be worth it. I encourage you to pre-order “Make Your Own Rules Diet” before it hits bookstores in November, because you’ll want your hands on it as soon as possible. As a thank-you from Tara for pre-ordering the book, you’ll get the fantastic “Wake Up” yoga download and other cool gifts. You can pre-order the book and get your free gifts by going here.

You can follow Tara’s inspirational updates about yoga, travel, food, life, and more on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Make sure to subscribe to her YouTube channel for great yoga videos, and head over to her website for her weekly updates, recipes, and other happenings.

Italian Quinoa Patties

Dinner Tonight (2)

I am a huge fan of bean patties and quinoa patties. The one I usually make comes from one of my favorite blogs, Dashing Dish. One night, I wanted a Italian/Mediterannean twist, so I created this recipe. I made them a few weeks ago, and forgot to post about them. But don’t worry–now you have a dinner idea for tomorrow night. Enjoy!

Italian Quinoa Bean Patties
1/4 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 can white kidney beans (cannellini beans), drained and smashed
1 egg, slightly beaten
4 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp oregano or Italian seasoning
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp cracked red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook your quinoa and set aside to cool. A good trick is to place a bowl into the freezer a few minutes before the quinoa is finished cooking, and then placing the quinoa in the bowl once you’ve drained all the excess water.

3. In a medium to large mixing bowl, combine the smashed beans, slightly beaten egg, and the quinoa. Mix to combine.
4. Add in the tomatoes,seasonings, salt, and pepper, cheeses, and breadcrumbs. Mix to combine.
5. Place a sheet of tin foil onto a baking sheet. Spray the sheet with cooking spray.
6. Using clean hands, pick up the bean pattie mix and form into patties about to the size you want it. (They will not shrink or expand.) Place on cooking sheet. Amount will depend on the size of the patty.
7. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.
8. Serve with Greek salad, fresh pita, or on a hamburger bun.

Daily Discovery Series: Raspberry Brownie Bars

I haven’t added to the Daily Discovery series in a long time, and what I’m about to show you is worth the reboot of the series.

What I’m about to show you might change your life.

Because I think they have changed mine. They’re beautiful, just sweet enough, and don’t involve too many ingredients.

They’re raw raspberry brownie bars that I came across while scrolling through one of my favorite websites, Mind Body Green. You can go here for the full recipe, but here are a few changes I made:

I swapped out all the sugary items (dates, maple syrup) for agave nectar, since that’s what I had on hand. I sweetened each of the layers a small amount at a time, tasting along the way.
Here are a few other changes I made to the base layer of the brownie bars:

- For the nuts, I used almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
– I added a pinch of salt.
– I added a tsp of vanilla extract.

For the base layer, it says to blend the nuts in a blender. If you don’t think your blender could handle it, or if you just don’t have a blender, use a ziploc bag and something to smash the nuts with. I used a rolling pin. You get just as delicious a base layer.

The resulting bars are beautiful, cold, and sweet. They’re chocolaty in a dark chocolate sort of way. If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, you will probably want to add more sweetness to the chocolate layers, or add in more vanilla to take off the edge of the dark bitter taste.

You could make these anytime. As they say on Parks and Recreation, “Treat yo self!”

I encourage you to try these bars, whether with the changes I made or with the original recipe. And be sure to go over to the site and thank the recipe’s author for such delicious and gorgeous bars.

Small Kitchen Cooking: Sometimes, Simpler is Better

It’s easy, when you discover that not only do you know how to cook but that you love cooking, to get caught up in the pretty food magazines and recipes you find on Pinterest. When I first started out with exploring the kitchen and finally cooking, I would have stacks of complicated or extensive recipes that would leave me standing in the kitchen when I finally got home from the grocery store wandering why in the world I had just bought a bunch of stuff for a one-off recipe.

Over the past four years that I’ve been cooking, I’ve learned something: sometimes, simpler is better. Instead of roasting my potatoes in a bunch of different spices, I’ve discovered tossing them in olive oil, salt, and pepper does the trick. Sure, I still love to make complicated, fun, and new recipes, but I’ve really enjoyed learning that I don’t need all the fancy things to make a really good meal.

Joey Lawrence’s character on Melissa and Joey summed it up recently in an episode I was watching, where he’s teaching the teenage boy, Ryder, how to cook:

“If the world had only olive oil, garlic, and onions, they would be able to rebuild in about a month.”

Sometimes, making a gourmet-tasting meal comes from few ingredients. It’s also fun to make something new and complicated.

Just don’t become overwhelmed. Know that when you’re discovering your kitchen and stretching out your cooking legs, go for the simple things. See how those turn out. See how they taste. Build upon them if you want. And don’t be afraid to try the complicated from time to time.

Happy cooking!

Beautiful You: Ways to Stay out of the Fear Zone

When you trap fears inside your head and you never release them, those fears are only going to grow more powerful and strong. They’ll take hold of you and, probably without knowing you’re even doing it, you’ll take root in them.

Disclaimer: These are not medical opinions, but my own. I am not a doctor. These are the things that I’ve practiced and realize help me.

But you don’t have too. When you’re trapped inside the fear-space (or “the fear zone”) in your head, here are a few ways to snap back to the present:

1. Kick the icky feeling by looking at something in front of you: your dog, a friend, grass outside the window, a flower, or a new tab on your computer, or refocus on what you’re trying to work on.
2. If you have the chance, I like what Gabrielle Bernstein suggests: write it down. Really think about where you were traveling off to in fear-land. Write down those thoughts. What Gabrielle suggests is to then change the fear into something positive.
3. Do a downward dog. Yoga has completely changed my life when it comes to coming back to the present and releasing fears. If you are able to, turn on a short yoga video, do a couple of stretches, or simply stand up. This gives you the chance to do something different; you’ll be able to change your thought pattern. (If you’re looking for a yoga teacher, I always suggest going to Tara Stiles’ yoga channel.
4. Say it out loud. Whether you believe in God or not, say your fears out loud. I like to pray. And then I try to meditate afterward, or simply focus on taking a few deep breaths. I also like to pull out my Bible and read a few quotes of Scripture that ease my worries, or I grab my small notebook of encouraging and uplifting quotes from people I admire.
5. Take a deep breath. Speaking of taking deep breaths, just taking one can change your whole mindset. Often and without knowing it, we’ll begin to breathe shallowly. This can lead to anxiety or panic attacks, or just an overall feeling of nervousness. Sit up straight and take a slow, deep breath. Then see how you feel afterward.
6. Drink a cold glass of water. The refreshing coolness will help wake you up and drag you out of that fear way of thinking. And sometimes, the nervousness I feel just goes away after drinking a glass of cold water.

I hope these tips will help you be able to release your fears (or being trapped inside future-tripping fear thoughts) and return yourself to the present, so you can live fully and happily.

Small Kitchen Cooking: Poached Eggs Aren’t Terrifying [Recipe]

I made poached eggs on Sunday morning because I was tired of seeing so many gosh-darn delightful looking recipes and me being to scared to try them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve stayed away from attempting to make poached eggs because I’ve heard how intimidating it can be.

But this morning, I cracked open one of my cookbook essentials, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” and got to work. And it wasn’t terrifying. I used a 1 cup measuring cup and cracked each egg in there, using the cup to place the eggs into the water, one at a time. And then I turned on the timer and waited for 5 minutes.

But that was it.

Nothing to it.

The result? Well, I will admit, I don’t think I added enough water to my saucepan, because the eggs had no white tops! It was kind of cute, actually. Despite their missing tops, the poached eggs were everything I’ve heard they are: silky, smooth, and light. Gorgeous to look at, and delicate to eat. I savored every moment. And now I don’t think I’ll ever look at fried or scrambled eggs the same way again. I’ll always be left with this sinking feeling of “if only I had poached eggs.”

Believe me, they’re worth trying. They’re not terrifying. Just go out there and try it.

Next on my list of intimidating foods I’ve avoided making? Souffle. I have no plans to make it anytime soon.

Happy Tuesday! What’s your favorite way to have poached eggs? I had mine over hashbrowns, sauteed bell peppers, and sharp cheddar cheese.

Here’s another way I want to try them:

Arugula, Asparagus, and Poached Eggs